NEW YORK CITY, NY – New York City FC took on the stingiest defense in the league Wednesday night when they hosted Sporting Kansas City. Let’s see how they fared.
Patrick Vieira didn’t have any surprises in his lineup tonight as Andrea Pirlo made his 12th appearance of 2017, alongside fellow designated player Maxi Moralez. Tommy McNamara rounded out the midfield, with Ugo Okoli the only other second-teamer that hasn’t gotten significant minutes included in the eleven.
Sporting KC’s vaunted defense lived up to the hype as City out-shot them seven to five, with two shots on goal and three blocked. The Boys in Blue made it a point to get second and third tries on everything in the box. The possession battle was nearly even, but there wasn’t a lot of back-and-forth. Rather, each team had five or ten minute stretches of possession that amounted ended unsuccessfully.
Perhaps the best chance of the half came off a series of corners for City. Pirlo lofted the ball (as he does) and Frederic Brillant got on the end of it, only to have his shot blocked right at the line. On the ensuing corner, again Brillant got on the end of Pirlo’s service only to see his shot go wide.
Jonathan Lewis also got himself involved, sliding a pass just a bit too late for Okoli to tap it home.
Both teams came out of the half firing. Sporting KC and NYCFC both played much more direct, with much more frequent possession changes as both attacks opened up and took more risks. As the rain began pouring down, players were having a hard time staying upright.
Lewis found himself subbed off in the 55th minute, with Vieira likely saving him for Saturday against Portland. Khiry Shelton took his place, but his impact wasn’t really felt. As has unfortunately become the norm for Shelton, he was plagued by indecision and a lack of killer instinct.
As the game grew late and City started pouring on the shots, Tim Melia showed everyone why he should have been chosen for the All-Star game. The Sporting ‘keeper would finish the match with five saves in an outstanding performance on the road.
After 84 minutes, the game looked to end how everyone predicted – with a hobbled NYCFC attack unable to score against the nearly impregnable Kansas City defense. Jack Harrison – who admitted to pressing a bit in the last few games when speaking to reporters after the match – was trying everything he could think of to create something. Odd angles, random deflections – nothing seemed to work.
In that 84th minute, however, the dam finally broke. On a cross from RJ Allen, Melia expected the ball to be taken by McNamara, who was streaking through the air, but offside. Instead of making contact, McNamara let the ball pass behind him to Harrison, who one-timed it on the volley. Melia wasn’t expecting it, and the ball dribbled past for Sporting KC’s 20th goal conceded of the year.
It would be all the Pigeons needed to come away with three points.
The Boys in Blue are back in action this Saturday versus Portland Timbers at 5:30pm Eastern.